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Pianist David Helfgott, driven by his father and teachers, has a breakdown. Years later he returns to the piano, to popular if not critical acclaim.



(screenplay), (story)
4,876 ( 598)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 44 wins & 48 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Justin Braine ...
Alex Rafalowicz ...
Gordon Poole ...
Eisteddfod Presenter
Ben Rosen
Danielle Cox ...
Suzie - Child
Rebecca Gooden ...
Marta Kaczmarek ...
John Cousins ...
Jim Minogue
Paul Linkson ...
State Champion Announcer


As a child piano prodigy, David Helfgott's musical ambitions generate friction with his overbearing father, Peter. When Helfgott travels to London on a musical scholarship, his career as a pianist blossoms. However, the pressures of his newfound fame, coupled with the echoes of his tumultuous childhood, conspire to bring Helfgott's latent schizophrenia boiling to the surface, and he spends years in and out of various mental institutions. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A true story of the mystery of music and the miracle of love See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for nudity/sensuality and intense thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

14 February 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Claroscuro  »

Box Office


$5,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$162,179 (USA) (22 November 1996)


$35,811,509 (USA) (30 May 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Dustin Hoffman expressed interest in playing David Helfgott, as his music and life story have both moved him. See more »


During the first music competition, we see one of the judges, Mr. Rosen, with his hand covering his face. The camera angle changes to the back of the room and his hand is now lower. The scene returns to view him from the side and his hand is on his face again. See more »


Isaac Stern: America. You know, land of the free, home of the brave. You know, Mickey Mouse.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Himself: hand double for Geoffrey Rush See more »


La Campanella
From Violin Cencerto in B minor by Niccolò Paganini
Transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt
Performed by David Helfgott
See more »

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User Reviews

Wonderful little story that is interesting for the majority but heartbreaking at times
28 January 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

David is a stuttering, rambling man having suffer a complete breakdown as a young man. However when he was a child his skills on the piano were unmatched. Driven by his father, opportunities open up in front of him to go abroad to learn, but his father denies him the chance. He leaves for London where he drives himself to the point of exhaustion before coming back home to find his father has disowned him.

It took me years to finally watch this film. I was still in Northern Ireland when it came out in the cinema and such films were not permitted to cross our borders, lest they keep the latest action movies from our 1 or 2 screen cinemas! So away from the hype and the Oscar hoopla I sat to watch this film and found myself easily taken in by it. The story is the true story of David Helfgott who was a boy genius before his breakdown. The film starts with him as an adult then jumps back to see him as a child. This approach works well to allow us to see the `end result' as it were, before we see what would be considered the causation factors. These factors are a little heart breaking to watch but they are very well delivered. As an adult, David is comic, warming and tragic. The pain in his life is brought out very well.

A great deal of the praise for this must lie with the wonderful cast. Rush got his Oscar of course and I'll leave it to the users on the message boards to argue over whether or not you can be the lead actor with screen time of less than half the film! He is great, walking a difficult line with a `disabled' character but managing not to just make it a caricature at any point. David as a child is very well played by Rafalowicz and does more of the development work than Rush and hence gets less credit than he deserves for making us care for the adult David. Mueller-Stahl is as good as he can be and gives a great performance, the only downside being that he doesn't age a single day between the adult and child sections of the story - surely some makeup could have been used?

Overall this is a very enjoyable human story that is driven by several really strong performances in key roles. The story keeps it's tone light but yet still manages to be dramatic and, in some scenes far too touching to avoid being slightly moved. The music is beautiful when it is called on to be and dramatic at other times - the director does very well to make the intense music translate into intense scenes in the film. Overall a simple story of a man but one that is interesting and a lot more moving that I expected it to be.

35 of 43 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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